Not washing your hair might have some benefits, but it comes with these 9 risks

The pros (and cons) of skipping wash day

An image from the back of a woman in a green field tossing her hair back into the wind, wearing a white shirt
(Image credit: Getty images)

If you're on TikTok, you may have seen one too many videos shouting about the benefits of the no shampoo method. There are over 80 million views for #nopoomethod, with several creators showing their no shampoo hair journey or the "no poo method" for the cool kids. 

Are you tempted by the no-poo, skipping out on the shampoo journey? It may have to do with the cost of living crisis or attempting a more "natural" lifestyle. But those with the most TikTok views who have given the no shampoo method a go all start with a clarifying shampoo, massage their scalp and use a shower filter which sounds more effort than a simple wash and go to me. 

When I scroll through the videos, I find one woman who has used apple cider vinegar and baking soda instead of shampoo and shows off her results one month later. I'm all for embracing a natural lifestyle, but this may be too far because you can tell she last washed her hair a month ago - the shine looks more like grease and the blonde looks muted, if not outright dirty. 

But there must be some benefits of the no-poo method, even if it looks like something you should only try if you are planning to stay indoors for the foreseeable. When I put off hair wash day for longer than I should admit, I tell myself it's all good in the name of a "hair reset."

So I asked the experts to explain everything we should know about ditching shampoo and whether this idea of resetting the hair is accurate. It's on TikTok now, but it's nothing new; celebrities and models have sworn by ditching the 'poo for super glossy hair for years. But does it really work? And is it actually good for your scalp, or will you need a lot of scalp treatments to make up for it? 

"There is certainly a trend for not shampooing hair. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, ultimately it depends on your hair type and scalp condition," says Leading Hair Transplant Surgeon, Dr Furqan Raja, of The Private Clinic.

Is not using shampoo good for your hair? The benefits of ditching the 'poo

The skin on the scalp is a delicate microbiome which creates natural oils (which you might see as grease). Not washing your hair is said to let these oils reset. And it makes sense; we already know about the benefits of oiling hair - rosemary oil is TikTok's latest obsession. But what about ditching shampoo altogether? Can you just never wash your hair again and live by a bottle of dry shampoo instead? 

1. Overwashing can cause damage

"Overwashing can cause damage and result in a dry or itchy scalp as washing your hair can strip the scalp of its natural microbiome and cause dryness an inflammation. It can also make your hair brittle and thin," says The Private Clinic's Dr Raja. 

However, "this doesn’t mean you should give up washing the hair, each person has a different scalp and hair type and ultimately it’s a balance between cleansing and keeping adequate moisture," Dr Raja explains. 

"I would advise to consider washing with shampoo & conditioner every other day and adjust the frequency according to the condition of the hair and dryness of the scalp," the hair transplant surgeon suggests, instead of giving up shampoo altogether. 

2. It can help preserve natural oils

The idea that ditching the shampoo can help the scalp 'reset' and bring back it's natural oils seems to be the driver for many giving the method a go. "Taking a break from shampooing your hair can certainly help preserve natural oils and help maintain moisture," says Dr Raja.

"Reducing your frequency of hair washes can help balance out oil production and reduce greasiness in the long run." However, there is a downside, "prolonged periods of not washing can cause buildup on the scalp, damaging hair and even impeding its ability to grow so I do not recommend this but you can certainly look to change up your regular shampoo and look for more gentle or organic products," Dr Raja suggests. 

Here's what happens when you don't wash your hair...

It turns out, there are a lot more cons to ditching the poo than there are benefits. The skin on the scalp is just an extension of the skin on our forehead, which means it needs moisture, exfoliation and the same amount of care and attention. Which begs the question, would you ever not wash your face for a week, or skip out on soap?

"Many people prefer the way their hair looks on day two or three after washing. Others may not be able to commit to laborious and time consuming styling every day if their hair, especially if it is particularly long or unmanageable," says Anabel Kingsley, Brand President and Consultant Trichologist at Philip Kingsley.

1. It can damage the health of your scalp

"A clean and healthy scalp is essential for the healthiest head of hair, and so for the health of your scalp there really are not pros to NOT washing your hair. When we wash our hair we are actually cleansing our scalp rather than washing our hair and attention should be placed on this, the subsequent suds that run through our strands provide cleansing to our hair and vigorous piling up of our hair can actually lead to tangles and breakage which we want to avoid," explains Kingsley. 

2. Dirty hair isn't healthy hair

On and off the tube, through in and out of Pret and back in an Uber home, your hair goes all these places with you. "You take your hair and scalp to the same places you take your face, and it gets just as dirty. Your scalp is also a living tissue; it sweats, produces oils and sheds skin cells. You wouldn’t leave more than 3 days between washing your face, and you likely wouldn’t wear the same outfit more than a few times before washing it – apply the same thinking to your hair and scalp. Every hair follicle on your head has an oil gland that produces sebum. If you don’t wash your hair often enough, it can lead to a build up of dirt, dead skin cells, oil and hair products making your hair more greasy. Your hair and scalp needs to be clean and healthy to produce optimal hair growth and this also helps to prevent scalp issues from occurring," explains Anabel Kingsley, Brand President and Consultant Trichologist at Philip Kingsley.

3. Ingrowns can pop up

You know how you can get ingrowns on your legs and bikini line? You can get ingrowns on your scalp too thanks to a build up of oil and product. The longer you go in between washes, the more build up you get, which can clog your pores and lead to ingrowns. Otherwise, this build up can contribute to dandruff or prevent new hairs from growing. So if you're deciding to ditch the 'poo for a week then a scalp treatment should be on hand for that first wash.

4. You might become a dust magnet

A build up of oil is the best way to attract all sorts of particles. You might think you have a case of dandruff, but in all likelihood, what you think is a dry scalp will probably be specks of dust. Also if you're spending a week getting to work on the tube, we don't even want to imagine the amount of dust and dirt we pick up.

5. You'll probably collect a lot of scents

And they won't all be nice. We're not talking the summer scents. In the same way that oily hair attracts dust, it also holds onto fragrances for a lot longer too. Now, this is great if you douse yourself in your favourite scent daily, but if you're anything like us and spend a lot of time walking around the city, you're no doubt picking up aromas that aren't quite so pleasant. Hair is a non-living fiber, which means what it attracts stays there in between washes.

6. Your hair can fall out

Just as a build up of product can cause ingrowns, it can also clog your follicles. Not only that, the weight of product build up can also promote hair loss. What's more, massaging your head as you shampoo promotes hair growth by stimulating your scalp and encouraging blood circulation. So, if you're skipping that step on the regular, you're not doing yourself any favours. 

"Contrary to much miseducation shampooing regularly will not cause hair loss or any additional hair fall, these hairs are already detached at the follicle from their blood supply and the act of shampooing simply dislodges them from the follicleand it is perfectly normal to shed 80-100 hairs per day. Therefore if you are leaving it longer between washes you are seeing an accumulation of 2, 3, 4 days even of hair fall," Kingsley explains. 

7. It makes your hair look thinner

Oily roots weigh your hair down, so if you're looking for buoyancy, you're going to need to clean your hair with the best shampoo for your hair type.

"You can also not train your hair to become less oily but you can minimise oil production through topical scalp toners and serums that help to balance the scalp, and avoiding oily, fatty or sugary foods can also have an impact. Using the correct products for your hair texture that deliver the correct levels of moisture for your hair should also not be stripping. If regularly shampooing makes your hair feel dry you are simply using the wrong shampoo," says trichologist Kingsley. 

8. It will lack shine and look dull

You know how we've been banging on about unwashed hair attracting particles, well, these particles have the ability to take away any natural shine your hair may have. Dirty hair also tends to be dryer, so it doesn't reflect the light as much.

9. Unwashed hair smells. Fact

Just like the skin on your body, your scalp has oil and sweat glands. This leads to naturally occuring bacteria, which creates an odour. Sure, a spritz of hair perfume might help you, but there's only so long you can mask that smell.

As you may have guessed it, this TikTok trend is not one the experts approve of, period. "There isn’t really any benefit to not using shampooing, the alternative is that your scalp continues to produce oil making your scalp and hair greasier which can lead to a breeding ground for bacteria causing scalp issues, especially dandruff. It is a common misconception that dandruff is due to an oily scalp. It is actually result of an oily scalp and so daily shampooing is extremely important with the correct shampoo such as our Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo to minimize outbreaks," says Kingsley. 

If you've been ditching the shampoo and now searching for a scalp treatment or toner, then keep scrolling for our top picks. Plus, our guides on shampoo for dandruff, the best shampoo for dry hair and purple shampoo for coloured hair too. As the experts say, a shampoo based on your hair type and concern is best. 

Dionne Brighton

Dionne Brighton is a writer at Marie Claire UK, specialising in all things shopping, beauty and fashion. Born and raised in North London, she studied Literature at the University of East Anglia before taking the leap into journalism. These days, you can find her testing out the latest TikTok beauty trends or finding out what the next full Moon means.  

With contributions from